When it rains it pours. I’d just got back from my wine jolly to Sicily when the phone rings and another supplier invited me to make up the numbers for a trip to Germany. We don’t sell much German wine but I’ve become increasingly impressed with the quality of some of their reds (particularly Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Lemberger (Blaufränkisch in Austria) so I thought I’d give it a go. It also seemed ‘trainable’ but that’s another story. What I hadn’t realised was how dominant Riesling still is and I can tell you, a full-on tasting of twenty bone dry Rieslings at 9am is not something to look forward to. The accommodation left something to be desired too. At one particularly family friendly guest house I missed the bathroom (it was the size of a wardrobe) and was seriously thinking that the cat litter tray on the balcony was the en suite facility. However, what put a bit of a downer on the trip – or rather, an eye opener, was their resistance to organic certification. Every producer we visited was happy to boast about their environmental credentials but none of them were certified organic. The reason – copper sulphate. It has a derogation in organic viticulture, in the form of Bordeaux mixture, from the powers that be. Permissible are being reduced all the time as organic vignerons learn how to manage without it. I imagine it’s all about canopy management – too many leaves will trap the moisture, too few and the grapes will get sunburn and start fermenting on the vine. You don’t have to look far to understand why people are wary – https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/03/20/far-more-toxic-than-glyphosate-copper-sulfate-used-by-organic-and-conventional-farmers-cruises-to-european-reauthorization/ for example. German winemakers around the Rhine, are particularly susceptible to mildew and the medicinal choices boil down to systemic sprays or copper sulphate. By definition, a systemic spray can’t really be targeted and by the time there’s evidence of mildew, it will usually be too late for copper sulphate to work so you really are caught between a rock and a hard place. The answer? Only grow grapes in places where humidity is too low for mildew to thrive – but that would rule out UK, Germany, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Galicia and northern Portugal – for starters. Or do a bit of homework and refine the art of seeing through the humbug and picking producers who really are committed to lowering their environmental footprint. Of the two, I’d prefer the copper sulphate option but only when I know that they really are trying to use as little as possible.
The other thing that came to light during my Teutonic travels, confirmed by Duncan at Sharpham and James Kinglake at Begude, was that most winemakers see vegan and vegetarian to be a more important marketing message than organic anyway. How things have changed.
Rosé just keeps on rising. Ultra pale Provence style is still flavour of the month but judging from the uptake on our Herencia Altes Rosado, there is hope for other styles too. The salmon colour of Cotes du Provence comes from minimal skin contact before pressing. All too often it’s a profitable bi-product/method (saignée) of draining off some juice to make the red more intense but, although dry, it makes the rosé virtually tannin free so, generally, a poor food match. Darker styles, that have spent more time with the skins will have the tannins disguised by fruit – which is often mistaken for sweetness.
So as well as our standard, La Jara Frizzante rosato, Mas de Longchamp, Begude Pinot Noir and Finca Fabian Garnacha rosés, we have a new Navardia Rioja rosado, Puglian A Mano Rosato and, best of all, a 100% Gamay rosé from Domaine de la Brossette on the Loire. We’ll also be listing a real one off – a, low alcohol (5.5%abv), lightly sparkling pink Moscato from Innocent Bystander (tell it to the judge), Victoria, Australia. Try it with a bowl of strawberries.
They’ll be available by the glass in the wine bar – as will the strawberries.
July’s BWT Wine Club will be all about Portugal. Still the best value west of the old iron curtain, some of the new winemakers are really shaking things up without forgetting the solid foundations tradition gives them. We’ll be featuring new wines from two winemakers you might have heard of; Peter Bright (the original flying winemaker now firmly ensconced in the Alentejo) and Dirk van der Niepoort (of Port fame) who makes an increasingly impressive portfolio of table wines. His ‘Drink me now’ Douro red was Jancis Robinson’s wine of the week a couple of months ago. Thursday 25th July is the day – watch BWT social media or call 01803 840583 for further more information.